fitting in.

Over the course of my life, I have struggled to find a home where I truly feel comfortable and fit in. My parents and I bounced around communities across the city, moving several times over my life. At school, I never really had a core group of friends I surrounded myself with, struggling to find ones that would ultimately stick around. Friends would come and go, and I continued to seek out a place to truly be myself and find comfort in my own identity.

I had one friend in particular that was my all-time best friend. We did everything together, and she was the one I had been waiting so long to find. Everyone had that childhood best friend, and I so longed for that too. But, one day, she completely flipped and used my insecurities against me. I won’t go into too much detail, but I struggled for a long time after that to fully open up and trust people again. It still takes getting to know me for me to be truly vulnerable, for fear that if people knew the true me they would get out as soon as possible.

A church home is also something my family has never really found as a whole. One church was too big, so big that I got lost in the shuffle and never actually began a relationship with the Lord. I saw people who never truly got to know the real me — I couldn’t relate to anyone. My introverted tendencies got the best of me, and I just hid further into my shell. I couldn’t find anyone to talk to about my relationship with God. No one challenged me to seek Him in times where I felt so alone and unwanted, and I would let my anxiety and isolation get the best of me.

My anxiety about fitting in would consistently haunt me. I kept up the thought that if I maintained perfectionism, that would draw people in. I thought that the fact that I looked like I had it altogether would automatically assume I did.

Right before I left high school, I started to go to a church with a smaller community, but I felt right at home. I saw genuine people who didn’t expect things to be perfect at church, and they knew that there, they had people who would listen and pray over them. The altar was wide open for hands to grab. And in that water, I was baptized at fifteen. Role models there loved on me and supported me in everything. Even though I lived pretty far away, it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t grown up somewhere in particular. I was loved and I was accepted. Churches are meant to be a haven for the broken, not a facade that I had everything together.

In coming to college, I abandoned the school community I felt so comfortable, yet disconnected from, in seeking out something more. I yearned for people that I could truly connect to spiritually. And, now, over a year later, I can see God’s hand in picking people like that for me. I’ve found girls who will call me out, holding me accountable for the things I know I need to improve upon. I am grateful to say these people will sit me down when I know something is wrong and know there’s room for me to grow. These people have been around through my best and worst, always looking out for me in the long run.

They’ve seen me make the biggest mistakes and regrets of my life, yet they see me in the same light. In the times where I struggle to look in the mirror, afraid of what it might show about me, they’ve lifted me right back up.

Senior year of high school, I went on a mission trip to Kingston, Jamaica where I met one of the most incredible women I will ever get the gift of knowing. This woman walked with me and let me into her life, and I am so thankful that I will never be the same because of Lisa.

Recently, she experienced loss, and we were able to talk on the phone for the first time in a really long time. In the midst of everything, she has a positive outlook on life and trust in God that never waivers. She consistently reminds me that education is something God has called me to do, hoping one day I could teach her own kids. Through sudden trauma, through day to day strife, this woman still advises me and urges me to stay strong. She pushes through night classes (in ultimate pursuit of nursing), parenting, working, and other obstacles. I expressed to her that I look up to her so much, and she indeed is the strongest person I know. And she responded with one of the most profoundly beautiful statements I have ever heard: “no matter how strong you are, you are always in need of someone.”

And that is community to me. That is fitting in.

Despite the fact that I believe God has it all together and I know I can trust His plans and source of strength, He’s given me these people that have been necessary to my growth and development as the woman I am today. Daily, I am in awe of the people in my life who consistently reflect Jesus’s heart for serving others and loving them so well. They will stop at nothing to make others’ lives easier. They will encourage, serve, and sacrifice.

I’ve come to notice that in my own experiences, physical place has little bearing on community. If your life’s kingdom centered, like I hope and pray mine is, my community is endless. Whether it be across campus, down the road, or across the world, I seek a kingdom that crosses all cultural, personal, or physical boundaries. Fitting in just seems such a futile effort now. In a lack of place, I have found my home.

-cgc.

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